Meunier’s Volley Rescues Three Points Against Basel

Thomas Meunier’s wonder goal in the 90th minute to defeat FC Basel 1-2 not only secured Paris Saint-Germain’s place in the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League but saved Unai Emery from impending criticism after yet another lackluster performance from his team.

PSG dominated possession but as is usually the case, failed to capitalize on far too many scoring chances and Basel’s equalizing goal in the 76th minute appeared to be the death knell that would send them to a second place finish in their Champions League group.

Emery maintained the same starting lineup from the previous match against Lille OSC, opting to go with Thiago Motta over the in-form Adrien Rabiot. In attack, Emery continued with the recent tactical changes, which has seen Lucas Moura and Angel Di Maria swap wings (Lucas to the left and Di Maria back to the right where he played most of last season). The switch looked justified for most of the game as PSG were comfortable in possession, created more chances, and most importantly, brought out some of the best football we’ve seen from El Fideo this season.

PSG settled into a rhythm early in the first half, monopolizing possession as Basel stayed behind the ball and looked to his Paris on the counter. Basel’s stout defending made life hard for Emery’s men as they struggled to pick out a pass in the final third. Things opened up as the game went on. Blaise Matuidi’s goal in the 43rd minute was the reward PSG deserved in the first half. The Frenchman guided Meunier’s shot into the goal like a seasoned striker and lifted the spirits of the team and supporters. The second half was a lot more open and PSG created more chances, with all of the attackers finding a lot more freedom but were unable to make them count.

Les Rouge-et-Bleu contained Basel much better than in previous matches. Thiago Silva was excellent in the first half, both in defense and in build-up play, throwing some defense splitting long passes almost at will but an accidental collision with Alphonse Areola cut his night short. Grzegorz Krychowiak came on for Silva at the start of the second half as a makeshift center-back. While he wasn’t really challenged with many dangerous situations, Krychowiak had a solid game overall and was strong in the air as balls were crossed into the box.

The Swiss side’s goal came practically out of nowhere. A quick shot from a throw-in caught Areola out in what was a night to forget for PSG’s keeper. It wasn’t the only error he made all night but it was the most crucial. His aforementioned collision with Silva and a yellow card for his troubles summed up his night. It will be interesting to see if Emery decides to reinstate Kevin Trapp as the starting goalkeeper after this to determine how serious his claims about the competition between the two is. Failure to give the German a shot won’t go down well with the player given that he lost his spot due to a poor performance and it’s been reported that he’s not happy about his lack of playing time. On the other hand, sticking with Areola would be a huge vote of confidence by the manager.

Emery played down the severity of the error, saying this to Canal Supporters:

…he has done very well on all matches. Basel did a lot of crosses to the far post and it was important that he caught them. I admire all the work he has done. His performances give confidence to the team. On the match, he conceded a goal on a long-range shot, it’s not an error. It’s not bad. I am very happy with him. He plays as we want, it works well for the team

Areola had Meunier to thank for bailing him out as the Belgian’s sumptuous strike from just outside the box from a Rabiot cross gave PSG the breakthrough in the end. It was a sweetly struck effort, one that will surely go down as a contender for goal of the season. It was the reward for an all around brilliant game from Meunier, who as a threat down the right flank throughout the match. Most supporters won’t be surprised though as he’s shown hints of his tremendous ability to strike the ball in the preseason. After suffering a slow start to the season, it’s certainly great news that he’s finally coming into his own.

Paris got away with nearly all of their mistakes and managed to scrape out a win but it should have been a much easier route given the amount of chances created. The overreliance on Edinson Cavani has become glaringly obvious. Indeed, prior to this match, PSG had yet to win a game in which Cavani failed to score in since the match day two against FC Metz. The Uruguayan has been crucial for PSG this season, scoring in nine of 12 matches he’s featured in since the Metz match. El Matador has slowed in recent weeks though, scoring only one in his last three games. Against Basel, Cavani had one of his frustrating evenings as he fluffed a couple of good chances and had a goal called back due to the offside rule. He will (and deservedly so) receive some stick for his missed chances but it’s impossible to expect him to deliver every night. Paris need other options and fellow forwards Lucas and Di Maria (who has just one goal so far this season), along with Jesé Rodriguez and Hatem Ben Arfa, must improve and help take the scoring burden off of Cavani’s shoulders.

Despite the performance, Paris Saint-Germain leave Switzerland with exactly what they came for, three points. They must now turn their attention to a tough game against Arsenal in London on November 23, which will ultimately decide who finishes first in Group A.

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Photograph by FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Tags Adrien Rabiot Alphonse Areola Basel Blaise Matuidi Champions League Edinson Cavani Grzegorz Krychowiak Hatem Ben Arfa Jesé Rodriguez Thiago Motta Thiago Silva Thomas Meunier Unai Emery
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